Women Deacons: “They’re Hiding In The History!”

In her recent book, Holy Saturday: An argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church, theologian Phyllis Zagano lays out compelling historical evidence that women as well as men were ordained deacons even in the first century. She shared that evidence in a talk July 20 in Cleveland.

Zagano says the Vatican's International Theological Commission document on the diaconate in October 2002 was fundamentally flawed. Bent on proving that women never were ordained and never can be, the paper ignored or omitted a large body of historical and theological evidence that women were in fact sacramentally ordained. It also ignored the original 1974 study on women deacons commissioned by Pope Paul VI which concluded that the ordination of women deacons in the early church was sacramental. In addition, the 2002 paper ignores the present practice of the Armenian Catholic church which has at least three women deacons. Both Paul VI and John Paul II have acknowledged the validity of Armenian Catholic sacraments.

The misleading 2002 document is slated to appear in English soon. "Why are they hiding the history?" asks Zagano. A fuller report of her July talk is on the web at www.futurechurch.org/newsletter.

Commentary

Rev. Francis F. Baiocchi

Phyllis Zagano's research into this topic is both thorough and compelling. The Roman Curia obviously has its own agenda on the issue, and will go to any length to cover up the historical evidence.

If women can be sacramentally ordained deacons in the Catholic church, then the last remaining obstacle to their being ordained priests is removed because priesthood is the logical and ontological extension of the diaconate. It differs only in degree, not in character. For the Vatican's International Theological Commission to conclude the validity of a female diaconate is to give the lie to the entire current argument of the Vatican authorities that it is "quasi-infallibly" impossible for women to be suitable candidates for sacramental ordination. As we learned in the seminaries a long time ago, contra factum non valet argumentum! The Vatican argument fails miserably in the face of historical fact. The only way around this for the current "magisterium" is to attempt an end-run by negating, ignoring, omitting the historical facts of the matter. Surprise, surprise!

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